Tools to help create a balance for sustainable well-being
When I chat with clients, I can never stress to people enough the importance in being equipped with a variety of tools and options in your life to create sustainable well-being. What I mean by “sustainable well-being” is bringing calm from within rather than outside. This ensures that in almost any condition you can find calm, and this calm lasts/builds on the last moment, and only has positive or neutral consequences.
If your go-to response to being in or approaching a state of distress is to use alcohol, tobacco, food, marijuana, caffeine, harder drugs or other negative coping mechanisms (such as verbal abuse/conflict with coworkers, friends or family…) as the primary form of coping mechanism, then you are setting yourself up for failure and the tendency to repeat actions and thought processes that actually increase your distress. Not to mention, falling into a regular pattern of abuse of most of the items I just mentioned can lead to addiction which comes with a full set of problems on its own.
Often, when you begin internal work with the efforts to develop sustainable well-being in your life, you are also doing yourself a favor by building the tools to help prevent unnecessary instances of distress. The list that I have researched and complied is not exhaustive of the positive methods you could use. These are just some that I have found extremely helpful both personally and while working in my practice with clients.
Tools for Mental & Physical Well-being:
I have linked very helpful, reputable sources that provide step-by-step guides or videos for continued exploration, for each of the following tools/tips which you will see underlined in the list.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: This is a simple technique that you can use almost anytime and anywhere to help reduce stress, tension and anxiety. You simply tense one muscle group at a time for 5-10 seconds, then exhale your breath as you release the tension in that muscle group. In addition to helping reduce physical and mental stress, it can help with instances of insomnia!
- Autogenic training: While Autogenic training is usually done with a counselor or other practicioner guiding you through a relaxing, visual meditation, you can also do it by yourself by listening to a guided audio file. In the link provided, you will find an audio file as well as more information on this form of meditation. The University of Melbourne describes Autogenic Training as “a method for influencing one’s autonomic nervous system. Autogenic Training restores the balance between the activity of the sympathetic (flight or fight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branches of the autonomic nervous system.”
- Deep breathing: Whether you practice 4-square breathing, exhaling longer than the inhale, or sitting/laying with your hands on your belly to feel and recenter your breath and thought, intentional breathing does wonders for both your body and your mind. It helps to regulate emotion, heart rate, and blood pressure.
- Mindfulness and grounding techniques: These two are pretty closely related. Mindfulness is being aware of your environment (in your mind, and your physical environment around you) without placing judgement on it or dwelling on a thought. Grounding is a technique that helps to recenter your mental state by grounding your thoughts back to the present moment- this can be useful when you are feeling upset or anxious. Both of the links provided have interactive videos that help you understand and practice these concepts.
- Exercise; Hiking, swimming, and seated exercises are all wonderful low impact ways to get exercise. If traditional “exercise” isn’t your thing, you can incorporate physical activity in everyday activities such as gardening, cleaning and playing a team game/sport. Walking is always a good go-to, and is extremely underrated considering the huge amounts of benefits that it provides. Just 20 minutes of walking a day can help you lead a healthier lifestyle, by improving circulation, weight management, emotional regulation and so much more.
- Tap into your creativity: Writing, drawing, adult coloring pages, poems, music, dancing, singing are all great ways to re-fresh your mind.
- Work on your sleep hygiene. The amount and quality of sleep you get plays an extremely important role in your mood and mental state, which effects how you respond to stressors.
- Stretching helps improve your circulation, which is linked to improved mental clarity and decrease in feelings of anger, sadness and confusion that can be caused by extreme stress. This is because as stretching improves your circulation, your blood flow increases and your heart rate decreases.
- Talking with a trusted friend or family member can help you release feelings that have started to build up from continuous stressors. Sometimes, you might even get insight from hearing a different perspective on your situation, or coming to a solution that you hadn’t thought of. Regardless, having someone to vent your frustrations to once in a while can be enough and allows you to let out the feelings you may have been keeping bottled up inside.
- Having a pet to take care of can increase feelings of well-being and decrease loneliness, which is a major contributor to stress for many as we continue to navigate the pandemic.
- Spiritual or religious practices can give meaning. This does not have to mean organized religion, just the sense of a higher power can give others meaning. This could also be developing a deeper connection to nature.
- Getting outside can do wonders for your mind and body and increase your feelings of well-being. This is similar to the above mention of using nature to increase your sense of meaning in life, which increases your resiliency.
- Decrease drug, alcohol, tobacco and processed food use as these all interfere with mental well-being.
- With the exception of tobacco and hard/dangerous drugs, some things are okay in moderation. The important thing here is to note your limit (what can trigger you into a downhill spiral of abuse) and to keep it in light MODERATION.
- Create loose structure in your life; build a routine (you can refer to Caitlyn’s stream and blog post on building a quarantine routine that we posted near the beginning of the pandemic in March)
- Give yourself affirmations. Affirmations such as “I am strong. I am capable. I am alive” and so on give your life a greater sense of positivity and confidence. One of my favorite guided affirmations is the Loving-Kindness script.
I hope that these tips and resources are helpful to you in your journey towards sustainable well-being in your life! Remember to be gentle with yourself. Change does not occur overnight. Not even for the most motivated individual. What is important is that you are doing at least one thing each day that will help you get to the place where you want to be in life. Who and where you want to be in life is up to you- the most important thing is that you live a life fully of joy, personal stregnth and resilience.
As always, please reach out to myself or Caitlyn Clock to assist you- whether that is creating a quit plan, gaining accountability and support with maintaining your tobacco-free life, and/or anything in-between as it relates to your tobacco reduction goals! Take care.
Amber Jager, CTTS in the Detroit Area: (269)350-3826
Caitlyn Clock, TTS in the Ypsilanti/Jackson Area: (734)961-1077